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Russians control 80% of disputed city in eastern Ukraine


LVIV, Ukraine — Russian troops control around 80% of the disputed eastern Ukrainian city of Sieverodonetsk and have destroyed all three bridges leading out of the city, but Ukrainian authorities are still trying to evacuate from other residents injured, a regional official said on Tuesday.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, acknowledged that a mass evacuation of civilians from Sieverodonetsk is now “simply not possible” due to the ongoing shelling and fighting in the city. Ukrainian forces were pushed back to the industrial outskirts of the city because of “the scorched earth method and heavy artillery the Russians are using”, he said.

“There is still a possibility of evacuation of the wounded, communication with the Ukrainian army and local residents,” he told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that Russian forces have not yet blocked the strategic city.

About 12,000 people remain in Sievierodonetsk compared to its pre-war population of 100,000. More than 500 civilians take refuge in the Azot chemical plant, which is being shelled relentlessly by the Russians, according to Haidai.

A total of 70 civilians were evacuated from the Luhansk region over the past day, the governor said.

A Russian general, meanwhile, said a humanitarian corridor will be opened on Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the beleaguered Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk. Col-Gen. Mkhail Mizintsev said the evacuees would be taken to the town of Svatovo, 60 kilometers (35 miles) north in territory under the control of Russian and separatist forces.

He said the plan was drawn up after Ukraine called for establishing an evacuation corridor leading to Ukrainian-held territory.

Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Management Center, is accused by Ukraine of human rights abuses while commanding troops during the long siege of Mariupol, Ukraine’s key sea port of Azov which was taken over by the Russians.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have been pushing to seize the Donbass industrial zone in eastern Ukraine, which borders Russia and is made up of Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

“The situation is difficult,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy said in a press conference with Danish media on Tuesday. “Our task is to fight back.”

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the aid organizations providing food to Donbass residents, said fighting in recent weeks has made regular food distributions impossible.

Now, he said, the remaining civilians in the town “are almost entirely cut off from the aid supply after the last bridge was destroyed”.

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MORE RUSSIAN-UKRAINE WAR STORIES:

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– The bucolic forest of Ukraine is the site of exhumation of mass graves

— Pope denounces Russian “cruelty” and praises Ukrainian “heroism”

– German leader timid about plans to visit Ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday they received the bodies of 64 defenders from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol in the latest body swap with Russia.

The statement from the Ministry of Reintegration of the Occupied Territories said the exchange took place in the Zaporizhzhia region, but did not specify how many bodies were returned to Russia.

It was one of many body swaps the warring parties conducted. Earlier this month, Moscow and Kyiv swapped 160 bodies each. Russian officials did not comment on the exchanges, and there was no immediate confirmation from Moscow on the exchange reported by Ukraine on Tuesday.

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Ukraine says its air defense system shot down two Russian cruise missiles targeting the southern Odessa region.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration, thanked the country’s air defense forces for destroying the “two enemy” cruise missiles.

There was no independent confirmation and it was unclear whether any missiles hit their targets. Odessa is a key western port for Ukraine on the Black Sea.

Reports of night shelling also came from other Ukrainian regions, with five people injured in the northeastern region of Kharkiv. According to an intelligence update Tuesday by the British Ministry of Defense, Russian forces appear to have made small advances in the Kharkiv sector for the first time in several weeks.

Day after day, Russia is pounding Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region with relentless artillery and air raids, making slow but steady progress in seizing its neighbour’s industrial heartland. With the conflict now in its fourth month, this is a high-stakes campaign that could dictate the course of the entire war.

If Russia wins in the Battle of Donbass, it will mean that Ukraine not only loses land, but perhaps the bulk of its most capable military forces, paving the way for Moscow to seize more of territory and dictate its terms to Kyiv.

A Russian failure, however, could lay the groundwork for a Ukrainian counteroffensive – and possibly lead to political upheaval for the Kremlin.

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Pope Francis blasted the “ferocity and cruelty” of Russian troops in Ukraine while praising the “heroism” and “courage” of Ukrainians defending their land.

Francis made some of his sharpest comments on the war during a meeting with European editors of Jesuit journals last month, excerpts of which appeared Tuesday in Italian daily newspapers La Stampa and Avvenire.

While strongly criticizing the invasion of Russia, Francis also insisted that there were “no good guys and bad guys” and that Russia was somehow provoked by the expansion of the world. NATO to the East.

“Someone might say at that moment: ‘But you are in favor of Putin!’ No, I’m not,” Francis said. “It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing. I am simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good and evil, without thinking about roots and interests, which are very complex.

At the same time, Francis hailed the courage of Ukrainians and reaffirmed their right to self-defense while castigating what he said was a financial stake in the arms makers’ war to “test and sell weapons”.

“It’s true that the Russians thought it would be over in a week. But they miscalculated,” Francis said. “They found a brave people, a people who are fighting to survive and who have a history of fighting.”

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The verdant beauty of a pine forest with songbirds contrasted with the violent deaths of newly discovered victims of the Russian war in Ukraine, as workers exhumed bodies from another mass grave near the town of Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv.

The hands of several victims were tied behind their backs. The gruesome job of digging up the remains coincided with Ukraine’s police chief’s report that authorities have opened criminal investigations into the killing of more than 12,000 people since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. .

Workers wearing white hazmat suits and masks used shovels on Monday to exhume bodies from the forest floor, marking each section with small numbered yellow signs on the ground. The bodies, covered with cloth and earth, attracted flies.

“Bullets in the knees tell us that people have been tortured,” Kyiv regional police chief Andriy Nebytov said at the scene. “Hands tied behind their backs with duct tape say people were held (hostage) for a long time and (enemy forces) tried to get information from them.”

Since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region in late March, authorities say they have discovered the bodies of 1,316 people, many of them in mass graves in the forest and elsewhere.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

ABC News

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